Category Archives: Automotive

What is Mazda SKYACTIV technology?


A rather regular query i am asked by many non-Mazda as well as older Mazda owners is whether the SKYACTIV implementation is similar to Honda and Toyota Hybrid tech.  Considering I am currently a Mazda vehicle owner, i decided I should blog on this topic. But for automobile fans this would be rather stale news considering SKYACTIV tech has been in the market for over 5 years.

First and foremost, SKYACTIV is not a single component but it encompasses several initiates by Mazda to bring improved performance and fuel efficiency without going the typical Hybrid route.  Current SKYACTIV technology avoids the traditional hybrid concept of having an Atkinson cycle engine, an electric motor coupled to high capacity battery, which is charged via regenerative braking (and more) as is the case with the very popular Toyota Synergy Drive (https://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/Hybrid_Synergy_Drive) and the Honda Hybrid i-DCD and Hybrid i-MMD (which superseded the not so efficient Honda IMA hybrid) tech.

Key concepts OF SKYACTIV

Mazda approached the challenge of offering good performance with great fuel efficiency via the SKYACTIV technology banner in a different way,

1. Keep the weight low (in other words, don’t bring in any heavy batteries and associated tech that you normally see on Hybrid implementations, a quick read http://www.conserve-energy-future.com/advantages-and-disadvantages-of-hybrid-cars.php)
2. Extreme efficiency in the many facets of the vehicle’s manufacturing (which in many ways assist to keep weight low and also perform with great efficiency)
3. Don’t ruin the handling or performance (rather enhance it, CVT and Dual-Clutch implementations are still not as smooth as the automatic gearboxes)

As one Australian road tester scripted “Put simply, SKYACTIV technology is about substantial efficiency gains without the slightest compromise to the car’s performance and dynamics. Those gains are achieved through more precise design and engineering of key components”

Application in Mazda vehicles

Mazda automobiles have different levels of SKYACTIV concept applications and though all carry the SKYACTIV moniker, not all the tech is applied to all cars 😦 Hence your SKYACTIV badge may not translate to all the benefits, and may explain why your car’s fuel economy and performance is not what you expect.

01-inline-skyactiv-technologies-chassis-design-body-design-drive-design-direct-injection-gasolin
SKYACTIV Technologies

Source: http://technicalquestionsbank.blogspot.com/2013_10_01_archive.html

Weight Saving

Almost all Mazda vehicles that get tagged as SKYACTIV tend to be much lighter than the cars from competing vendors. In an age where newer models continued to increase in weight, Mazda was among the first manufacturers that reversed this trend. While safety regulations, and the need for more space had mandated the need for the weight increase, Mazda focused on achieving this by designing in efficiency gains in its manufacturing across all its components (Chassis, Frame, Gearbox, Engine, etc) to provide weight saving without compromising safety.  The level of SKYACTIV concepts applied to reduce weight differed from vehicle to vehicle on the Mazda range.

Optimized Engines

SKYACTIV engines feature very high engine compression ratios, which has enabled Mazda engines to provide greater economies. Here again the Japan domestics cars feature higher compression ratios due to the availability of higher grade fuels in Japanese market. Mazda tends to tune lower compression ratios for vehicles exported to other markets. E.g. the 2liter engines for Japan run 14:1 ratios, while the exported vehicles to Australia, etc run at 12:1

Stop and Start Technology

Practically all leading manufactures now feature the stop and start feature in their vehicles, and frankly people who run on Hybrid vehicles have not been happy with this. The judder as the engine keeps starting up, and the fact that many switch to blower mode for the air condition have been key areas of concern.

Mazda’s basic version of this implementation is called i-Stop. i-Stop which merely enables the vehicle to start and stop the engine when it comes to an idle mode such as a traffic light. Here Mazda uses the power of the car battery to run the electrical, hence the main benefits are felt only if your idle stops are short and not common. In extreme city traffic this can become annoying and rather useless. Further in order for the i-Stop to provide even 30 secs of power for the electric, Mazda recommends special batteries, that are hard to find in many markets. I noticed that if you don’t get a specialized battery designed for start and stop operations, the battery would only last about 6 months and the battery would not even be able tot start the car.  However if you check the battery, the battery is still good enough to be used with other cars that are less sensitive to the output of the battery.  If you are Mazda owner you will soon learn to live with Master warning light on, and the i-Stop light in orange indicating its not enabled.

The better solution from Mazda for this is i-eloop, which is a brake energy regenerative technology (http://www.mazda.com/en/innovation/technology/env/i-eloop/).  Here an innovation that Mazda incorporate is that it avoids using a battery, and has a specialized capacitor that stores the kinetic energy generated when braking supposedly very very similar to the tech BMW uses. This sadly in our market is only featured on the top spec 2.5L Mazda 6, and  coupled with i-Stop can provide true benefits where the vehicle can run on this special battery while on idle for several minutes. Unfortunately  i-eloop offers many of the benefits of the hybrid without the overheads of the heavy battery and mechanicals.

SKYACTIV-Drive Optimized Transmissions

The Mazda gearboxes are lighter, and coupled with optimized gear ratios. Mazda engineers also state they have implemented features that enable their gearbox to compete against other CVT and dual-clutch implementations.

So does any of the Mazda SKYACTIV feature hybrid technology?

Yes there are mazda vehicles that merge SKYACTIV technology with hybrids, but they seem to be experiments than core products. A few examples,

The Mazda Axela Hybrid (Axela = Mazda 3)

fbox_axela_h_01

The Axela Hybrid (http://www.mazda.co.jp/cars/axela/#axela-sport#axela-hybrid, and http://www2.mazda.com/en/publicity/release/2013/201310/131009a.html) is a bit of a wild card, and maybe a way Mazda is learning hybrid tech to prepare for the future. The hybrid tech is actually licensed from Toyota (Toyota’s Synergy Drive) as the Axela Hybrid contains a PRIUS gearbox and battery coupled to a heavily de-tuned 1998cc SKYACTIV engine. The engine had to be de-tuned because the Toyota gearbox was not designed to handle the level of power and torque generated by the 2liter Mazda engine, as it was originally designed for the 1498cc Prius.

Coupled with the SKYACTIV tech that already competes well against hybrids, the fusion of even older Toyota hybrid tech enabled the Axela Hybrid to actually provide better economy than the 3rd Gen PRIUS in Japanese tests, while providing greater performance even if the 1998cc engine was toned down to near 1500cc power outputs.  Note that the Axela Hybrid omits i-stop and i-eloop, as these are all replaced with Toyota’s Synergy Drive technology.

While most consider the Axela Hybrid more Toyota than Mazda in its internals, but i must say the Mazda 3/Axela looks stunning specially in the frontal view (a baby Mazda 6) compared to the rather ugly Prius 3rd gen.  Sadly i am seeing very little Axela Hybrid’s in Sri Lanka, though i am seeing the more expensive (and still ugly) Toyota Prius 4-th generation cars 😦

TIP: Interesting read comparing the new PRIUS and the Mazda Axela hybrid, and how much of Mazda has done to hide the Toyota internals.  http://oppositelock.kinja.com/mazda3-hybrid-more-toyota-than-mazda-1752761790

The Mazda Flair (= Suzuki Stingray/Wagon-R hybrid)

The older Flair Crossover was a re-badged Suzuki hustler with a premium price.  The new Mazda Flair (not a crossover anymore by the looks, http://www.mazda.co.jp/cars/flair/#flair) seemingly a re-badge Suzuki Stingray (aka Wagon-R Hybrid).  Needless to say how much of Mazda tech is in the Flair i cannot quote, as its very hard to find literature about this partnership and the level of Mazda tech that has been added on (if any).  The Flair is not what you call a Mazda zoom zoom car, as it features a 660cc engine, good enough to keep you happy in the city.

Do other manufacturers also do similar tech to SKYACTIV

If you look at the range of vehicles offered by Honda and Toyota in US and Europe, you will notice that Hybrids DO NOT lead the way, rather its the electric wave that seems to be path to the future. The reasons are simple.

In the US many don’t drive on congested city for larger part of their drives, and hybrids with their heavy batteries, don’t offer any great advantage in such conditions.  Here many manufactures have opted to use Hybrid concepts to provide greater power.

In Europe the diesels have proven, specially small diesels with turbos have proven to as economical as Hybrids without the complications.  In recent times European petrol cars have shifted to small capacity with turbos to provide better fuel economy and still offer good performance, and we see this trend now catching up with the other vendors as well.

While the recent rigging of fuel test results by VW has impacted the credibility of diesel, the success of other manufacturers have shown this was a viable option, as there are many concerns of how green Hybrids are (specially over the non green nature of the hybrid battery manufacturing process).

Further Mazda is not alone in the making efficient manufacturing, optimized gearboxes, efficient engines. Honda for instance with its new Civic omits Hybrid tech for the US market, and opts for a small turbo to give the power, but provide greater economies, a popular route that many manufactures are now trying with petrol, similar to the diesel approach that was successful in Europe.

In conclusion

If you happen to owning a Mazda 6 2.5L featuring the i-eloop, and drive the car in western market roads, you will definitely be able to achieve 2.0 liter economies while enjoying the 2.5liter outputs without the baggage of heavy batteries that are typically part of any hybrid, and maybe the key reason that people think SKYACTIV is as good or better than hybrid tech.  However cars such as the new Honda Accord with the dual electric motor hybrids are very viable and equally entertaining options.

However most other Mazda’s with SKYACTIV might offer decent economies than their competitors (or used to, as competitors have now developed their own tech to achieve the same), but cannot really provide those great fuel economies in true road conditions if your drive them in heavy congested traffic filled roads.

In such conditions, only an EV and hybrids  can provide truly great fuel economies,

.. BUT.. if you are not purely concered about the fuel economy, and are passionate about your drive, there are not many hybrids other than European brands and Tesla EVs that can provide the joy of driving while also offering good fuel economies when you are not stepping on the pedal.

And for any enthusiast driver, many of the Mazda SKYACTIV cars will surely be on your shopping list, for its blend of good looks, decent fuel economies, good performance and above average handling dynamics !

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Honda Stream RSZ review RN6 1.8


Introduction

Well first and foremost this is the car i drive, but it does not mean biased, my style is to be direct regardless of if its my drive or not!

So what is a Stream, reason i am stating this is that the Stream is a rather rare vehicle in Sri Lanka, specially the cool RN6 version.  The Stream is based the FD-series Civic with an extended wheelbase, and what is categorically defined as the MPV version of the Civic, though in today’s term its more a “crossover” vehicle.  While Honda marketed the RE series as a MPV, the RN series marketing was more sporty, and it said Family coupe.. and you know what, i think that might be a correct definition, coz it definitely looks cool to be called that.

UPDATE (2-Feb-2014):  When i came to part replacement is when i noticed that the Stream and the Crossroad are identical, which makes sense since they are identical vehicles with the same chassis, except that the Crossroad is designed to look like and SUV, while the Stream more car like in design.  The Stream is also more spacious in that it has a longer overall length (hence you actually have a small boot when all seats are up, in the Crossroad there is zero boot space with all seats up), and the Stream also has more head and leg room in the second set of rear seats!  So from a family point of view i can see why the Stream was more popular and continued to sell for many more years unlike the Crossover which was discontinued in just 2+ years in Japan.

Exterior and Design

The design to me is really the key part of the RN6 Stream, as the older generation vehicle looked far too van like.  The RN6 Stream nose is aggressively and masculine, and also very different from the rest of the Honda range.  Initially it looks very different from the FD Civic that its based on, however when you park the car beside one you see both have the same side flanks, and its just the headlights and front grill that makes the cars look drastically different.  See http://specs.cars-directory.net/~compare?ids=NDMwMjEsNTQyOTQ= for a comparison with the equivalent FD series Civic.

The side profile is also very neat and hides the fact that its an MPV.  Loads of my mates mentioned that they don’ t mind owning a MPV if it looks cool as this.  In comparison vehicles such as the rival the Toyota Wish,and the more common Kia Carens.

The rear has some design elements lifted from the RD series CRV, and is less unique than the front design.  But still a very nice job specially when you compare it against most other MPVs and estates.

Interior and Space

The Stream amazes many by the very efficient interior space.  The car though having a 40mm stretch in wheelbase over the FD Civic, has shorter overhangs, so remains nearly the same in length but has vastly greater space.

The vehicle can easily seat someone as tall as 5′ 8″ in the 2nd set of rear seats in comfort!  The middle seats also have very good legroom, and are also very nicely contoured.  However a design element Honda has missed is that they have maintained the same door control layout for the rear, which means you have a 3″ jut in from these handles which reduces the interior width of the car.  With most Japanese cars having to constraint themselves to 1695mm in width, the designers should try to maximize the interior width for the middle seat so that that 3 adults can sit in reasonable comfort, or be able to allow an adult to sit with two car seats which can be a challenge with the Steam (and many other cars).  Making the middle seat controls on the door leaner to say 1″ thick, or placing the on the door would have made this an awesome fully capable 7-seater.  For now i would say its more a 6-seater unless you have 3 kids seated in the middle row seats.

Boot space with the last row folders is good, but once the seats are up the boot space is very minimal.  However i was surprised when i saw the Kia Sorento and the Mitsubishi Montero Sport, two popular 7-seaters in Sri lanka, also have the same volume of boot space when the second set of rear seats is up.  This shows how efficient Honda has been with the interior design, since the vehicle has a much shorter wheelbase than the two other vehicles.

Surprisingly for Honda, the method of getting into the 2nd rear seat can be a challenge as you have to bend and climb, and i would have preferred the fold and drag front style (as done in the Kia Sorento) which is way more easy.  Mazda opted for the sliding door with their Stream competitor the Premacy, but this makes the Mazda look more like van in design, which would put off most sporty crossover owners (like me!).

Performance and Drive

The car definitely is heavier than the FD civic due to the extra bulk, but still the engine has enough zist to keep the smaller 1.5liter engines at bay.  The RSZ spec seems to have a different gearbox to the standard auto, which helps on the performance end.   The paddle shift is an useful addition, and is definitely needed since like any single cam VTEC engines, the low end grunt is lacking, and you need to shift through your gears to get the vehicle moving, though once it is into the 3rd gear there is more grunt especially in S mode.

Update (Jan-2015): The gearbox I am getting the feeling is actually sourced from an Accord, which may explain why its smooth and quite advanced.  Also unlike the FD Civic, this has a normal auto gearbox. The FD Civic 1.8 and 2.0 vehicles have the CVT gearbox that has problems, the normal gearbox on the stream means no such issues as long as you change the oils at the said intervals.

However after test driving my colleagues FD civic, one area the Stream definitely has an edge is that ride and composure.  The ride is more compliant even though the RSZ comes with a more sporty suspension, and also handles rutty gutted roads a lot better.  The additional weight and extended wheelbase also helps in the area of handling, where its more resolved than its sedan counterpart.

Update (Dec-2013): The car has very good acceleration up to around 140-160kmph but after this you notice the vehicle acceleration drops dramatically and its up to the stretch of the road to get more speeds, though if you step on the pedal it is quite capable of picking speeds well above 170kmph.

Update (Feb-2014): I finally found a site that had done some performance test of the Stream, the car is rated at 9.8-10 seconds to 0-100kmph.   This makes it quite nippy for a car carrying a fair amount of weight. The performance of 0-140kmph is also the more important benchmark, as that’s where the more power and larger capacity engine outperforms the 1.5 liter cars that all offer decent 0-100kmph performance, but then trail off.

Fuel Economy

The impact of the additional weight of the vehicle is felt in city driving.  The key reason i noted is that the eco mode of the engine is over 10oorpm and under 1800rpm, a range which is hard to maintain in city conditions.  The engine power and torque graphs i got from another blog site gives you the idea.  Max torque is only at a rather high 4300rpm, which might seem comparable since the Toyota 1.8 VVTi engine also has a max torque at 4400rpm.  But the difference is that the Toyota engine is able to provide a more flatter (less revvy) torque distribution at the lower end that helps it maintain attain the economies while delivery near similar performance.

stream_1

Surprisingly the fuel economies of the Stream are pretty identical to the 150kg lighter 1.8L FD-series Civic, indicating that its engine performance impacting city driving fuel economies more than anything else! Come on Honda, lets have the dohc engines on the range shall we if not the city driving economies of the Honda’s are definitely not going to match the Toyota’s which seems to have oozes of pulling power with minimal RPM that helps them achieve those great fuel economies.

The vehicle performs very well in the highways where it feels more at home, but while the acceleration between 100-140 is superb, the acceleration beyond 160kmph is not great, and a 6-speed gearbox could have improved this.  I took my first drive on the “Southern Express” and had an overall average economy of over 12+ kmpl.  The vehicle was driven in peak day with full AC, and a full load with average speeds around 100+ kmph with a “brief” excursion to 155kmph on the tail of a Suburu Legacy 3.0 (which of course easily sustained and went ahead of the RSZ and seemingly doing well over 180kmph as it blazed ahead)

Update (Dec-2013): If i drove the vehicle around 110-120kmph which seems to its optimal speeds i clocked an indicated 14-18kmpl.

Update (Oct-2014): Drove on the southern express on a very rainy day, and I was mighty impressed on the stability of the vehicle in wet weather.  I had managed to keep up with many cars that were more powerful, and only gave way for a Freelander LR2 SD4, BMW E90 320d and a 520d.  However i found both bimmers and the Freelander slowing down as the weather got rainy, and i had no problems driving on these conditions.  Needless to say i left the bimmers and the Freelander behind as i kept my phase on the wet weather.

Update (Jan-2015): Took another trip on the Southern highway, and this time with 5 adults and 2 kids, and the car did 170kmph, indicating it still has the legs.

City / Urban – Peak Hours 7-8kmpl
City / Urban – Non Peak Hours 8-9kmpl
Outstation / Highway – Narrow roads 9-10kmpl
Outstation / Highway –Wide roads 10-12.5kmpl
Sri Lankan new (proper) highways 14-18kmpl

Cost of ownership

I have now owned this vehicle for almost 2 years, and the vehicle had been run in Japan for 3 years prior to my ownership.  The vehicle has over 80,000km on the odometer, and is still running with the original shocks which are in good condition.

I changed the original Yokohoma tires which seemingly had lasted almost 70,000km which is impressive, but sadly i could not find the identical tires here locally.  I had opt for the Kumho tires and that too a 215/55/17 as opposed to a 205/55/17 which was the original spec on the car.

UPDATE (Dec-2013): The Kumho tires were about 85% wasted (and i had done 28K on the tires) when the tire shop mechanic noted during the tire rotation that there was an unusual split on both the tires in the middle and he advised to replace them.  I then went to the dealer i brought it from (U&H Tire shop) and the sales chap who knew me when said lets ask the agent and see if they can provide you a replacement.  I was then routed to DIMO, who initially said nothing was wrong, and that i could drive safely until the tire wasted.  However i responded back saying the tire dealer had said this is a danger, and if they can vouch for the safety. They promptly then said they will check with the overseas branch and a week later they provide me a full 50-60% discount on top of the discounted rate and sent me two NEW Kumo tires (newer version of what i had).  While initially not impressed by the service, i must say that its good to see them honoring the warranty that we normally take for granted!

Brake pads in the front were changed at 70,000km and i am not sure when the previous owner had replaced the brakes, but i am now into around 10,000km an the brake pads are in good condition.  However i see a tendency for the rear brakes to be used a lot, not sure why.

The air filters required regular replacement mainly due to the very dusty conditions in my my area, where the vehicle is regularly soaked in dust and this causes the air filter to get dirty very quickly, and the impact of a dirty air filter is easily noticed on the pulling of the vehicle and the fuel economy.

One thing that has annoyed me with my Honda Fit and the Stream is that the front head lights start to pick a slight yellow hue, even though they are on stock bulbs, and this ruins the appearance of the car.  In addition with the Stream i noticed some scratch like marks which are internal appearing in the front lights, i am not sure if this is a problem due to the higher temperatures and humidity in Sri Lanka compared to Japan. However with the Stream sold in other Asian countries i am sure Honda should have designed for these challenges.

UPDATE (2-Feb-2014):  The odometer reading is now 105,000km, and the car is still solid.  From maintenance cost, i finally changed the shocks, since this car is not brought down by the dealer i had to get the shocks down.  The cost quoted by Stafford the agent was “crazy” and they wanted 3+ months even to get it by air freight, and i got the same original shocks down through the popular TechMotors for much less. However though i felt the shocks were wasted, the mechanics when replacing indicated that i could have run more (i guess what they say wasted is not to my standard)!  However i proceeded with the replacement since they had removed the units.

UPDATE (NOV-2014): The rattling front rack was driving me nuts, and finally ordered it and replaced it as well as the stabilizer links. I feel the agents diagnosis of the shocks being bad were wrong, it was actually the stabilizer links as the car now feels like new, and with the new rack its really like a new car.

UPDATE (Mar-2015): The odometer is now reading 114,000km, so a light year as i have done just over 9,000km only for an year, and mainly in cursed Colombo traffic 😦  I started getting a bit of humming noise, and the check with the agents mentioned that it was the wheel bearings.  I have ordered them ,and hope to replace them shortly.

Other Reviews

Reviews of this vehicle is harder to find, since the RN6 was not sold outside the Asian market unlike the RE series Stream.  Main reason being not to cannibalize their Civic and CRV sales, as the Stream and Fit together effectively took the Civic out of the Japanese domestic market!

Hence formal reviews are hard to but since i purchased this car without having a single vehicle to test drive (the RN6 had not been imported until then into Sri Lanka), I had to go by the reviews.  I did test drive the Wish and found it very bland (AE121 corolla with an extended un-seductive body!)

Here are links to reviews online on the car for anyone who is looking for a sporty yet practical vehicle that can seat 7 adults when required! and on any other day take it as a sporty sedan with a larger boot 🙂

A magazine article i found on the net to add to the knowledge base. TORQUE-August07-Civic-Shuttle-Service-Honda-Stream

UPDATE (10-Oct-2014): Found this great link that has the original brochures for Japan, Malaysia, Hong Kong in scanned high res JPEGs https://www.flickr.com/photos/63416089@N06/collections/72157631864295137/

Honda Civic Hybrid FD3 Sedan quick review


A colleague of mine purchased an FD3 Honda Civic Hybrid.  The car was a reconditioned (used) in UK, and then imported into Sri Lanka.  The chap had a long and very happy ownership history with a Honda HRV for almost 8 years, and had got very attached to the rather revvy nature of the CVT gearbox.  Sadly the HRV an unique piece of Honda engineering was never continued, with the FRV dying a sad death, and the rather promising and direct spiritual successor based on the FD series Civic called the Crossroad discontinued abruptly in 2010 after just 2 years in the market.

Hence the vehicle that met his budget and was from the Honda shed were the Insight and the Honda Civic Hybrid.  The Insight was taken out for it rather quirky “rear end” (shared with the Prius), thanks to the designer going hell bent on aerodynamics and forgetting that cars also need look good all-around (the front of the Insight is really cool, the rear undoes the whole design).

The Civic Hybrid (and the Insight) is a lot simpler in its Hybrid implementation compared to the Prius, and the key difference is felt in fuel economies in city driving, where the Prius will always have the advantage due to its superior ways of charging and using the battery for operation.  Anyways not going to spend time on the Prius vs Honda implementation (another article for that!), but lets get to the Civic quick review 🙂

Exterior

What can i say, looks pure FD Civic, and one would think this is the 1.6L Civic (single exhaust, the larger engines have the dual exhaust pipes), bar the blue tint on the headlights except for the giveaway pure sci-fi type alloy wheels.   I am sure the alloys must be made of some super light material, but come on Honda what about the cool factor, it makes the vehicle look rather dull.  Hybrid does not mean dull (Hint CR-Z Mugen prototype!), the CR-Z for that matter has some cool wheels, and the normal Civic alloys themselves would have done good.

Interior and space

Again not that different from the standard FD civic (which makes it uber cool with that lovely futuristic dashboard, just which my Stream had that digital speed indicator), though i feel the rear legroom has been reduced possibly to accommodate the batteries.  I liked the seat material, and it seems the high quality (soft feel) Alcantra is standard across the range, nice.

However not all the vehicles are of the same standard.  The photos were taken from another office mates car, a car imported from Japan than the UK.  Here the Alcantra option is not available except on higher grades, and the material is more like you see in a standard Civic.

Performance and drive

Well i expected bog slow progress, and was i surprised.  Though a 1.3L supported by a very small electric motor, the car accelerates quite decently, and this is an achievement considering all the non hybrid versions are far more powerful.  In S mode the in gear changes are even more pronounced that for most it should be more than enough (I mean Toyota Corolla/Axio users, etc).  The ride is also very compliant, that even non Honda buyers (Toyota buyers) should be seriously looking at this car, since it is over 40% cheaper in Sri Lanka than the equivalent Prius!

The only quirk was the hybrid part, where you can hear a small motor sound as you brake (the owner indicated this was part of the hybrid setup) and the slight difference in feel to a normal car in breaking.  The handling was in the same likes of a Civic (and a Stream like i drive).

Fuel Economy

****Will update once i get hold of the figures for other conditions.

Unusually the car is very sensitive to driving style in peak (city) driving conditions.  Aggressive driving seems to take the toll, and the best approach seems to be to take off slow, cruise and then break hard.   This style ensures maximum use of the battery in cruise mode, and also maximum charge of the battery by harder breaking.  Adjusting to this style may not be to everyone’s taste.

City / Urban – Peak Hours 8.5 – 12kmpl
City / Urban – Non Peak Hours
Outstation / Highway – Narrow roads
Outstation / Highway –Wide roads  18 – 22kmpl

Battery Care

One of my friend’s who owns the Civic Hybrid had to leave the country for over 6 months. He had left the car in the garage, and once he started to use it he noticed a that the battery no longer is able to charge to levels it did before.  The normal charge capacity is 70%, but he now only gets 35%.  When he spoke to many Hybrid service centers they confirmed that just like any battery if its not used the battery being a Ni-MH type the battery forgets.

The easy and costly solution is to replace the battery, and he had been quoted Sri Lankan Rupees 350,000 (around US$3000) for an used battery with 6 months warranty. However another contact, supposedly who used to be the GM at Arabian Motors has said he can revive the battery, and also replace some of the dead cells and the cost of such would be around SRi Lankan Rs 150,000 (around US$1000).  My friend who is also a major research type person has found the revival option has been known to be successful based on the Internet forums, and is hoping to pursue that.

However the learning from this is a good one, don’t keep the car unused for long periods the benefit of the Hybrid battery reduces and also can be costly to revive/refresh the battery.

Conclusion

If not for the concern over the maintenance and lack of warranty (since these are used cars brought from UK and Japan), the hybrid cars truly make sense, since the severe city congestion situations make the hybrid consistently return good fuel economies.

The Civic and the Insight unlike the Prius attempt to keep some sense of driving feel, the Civic more than the Insight, which makes it a good alternative to to a petrol car.  However if you can afford the diesels remain the top of the choice as they return even better fuel economies with no loss in power or overheads in worries such as battery issues.  But for most specially in Sri Lanka where the duty on hybrids is lower than the equivalent petrol or diesel, Hybrids are very good alternatives, and hopefully we will see the agents or some aftermarket garages provided proper support to maintain and fix these vehicles.

But if you really need power 🙂 and green, then its either the hopefully to be released Mugen CR-Z or the electric powered sports cars!

3G+WiFi Samsung Galaxy Tab2 10.1 For sale

Posted by A.Mughal ‎06 Jun 07:00 pm, RatmalanaFavorite 

Galaxy Tab2 10.1 P5100 For Quick SALE brand new condition, android 4.1.2 Jelly Bean updated.
Carefully USED for few months.
Still under more then 7months ETISALAT warranty.

International version, Factory unlocked. Original made per Samsung
Bought from Etisalat

Wifi + 3G version ( Tablet with support for GSM voice Calls, SMS, and MMS )

NOTE : Its not Chinese / Vietnam or Anycall clone version.

With full set of same IMEI box and accessories + wireless keyboard pouch

White colour,

Internal Memory 16GB, 1 GB RAM, SD Card upto 32 GB.

HSPA Speed: 21 Mbps, Wifi hotspot
Dual camera ( front facing + back camera 3.5MP for excellent video calls )

Dual-core 1 GHz ARM Cortex-A9.

LONG lasting Battery: Li-po 7000 mAh battery,

Send me your highest offer via SMS,
(Please… serious buyers only ,No time wasters )
= ( slightly nego.
= expected ) =

NOTE = Please read above mentioned details carefully if still it fits to your need then only call or SMS. Thanks

Exchange possible Only with original Samsung Galaxy NOTE 2 n7100 / Nokia lumia 920 windows 8 smart phones / Sony Xperia Z

BMW E46 320d very (quick) brief review


I had the rather unexpected opportunity when attending the birthday of a classmate of my wife’s, to be given the key by the birthday girl’s hubby to his new toy, an BMW e46 320d.  Yes an E46, old but still a car that i always had loved to drive, but never got a chance.  The car had a 5-sp auto box, not something a BMW 3-series owner usual buys, but this chap had hunted one down due to the very long drives in congested traffics the car would be used daily, but loved the logo and its driver oriented design/performance.

It has been years since i got close to anything called crazy driving, but the chap was keen that I push the car, though I was not as confident since you do not want to take too many a risk with someone else’s car, and also not knowing the true limits and issues of car means reservations.

The drive that was supposed to be just a quick spin around the blocks became a 30 min drive across small lanes, and some “highways” in Sri Lanka (aka the Ratmalana and Panadura road to be more precise).  Just as we got into the highway, I felt the presence of a bright white light following us, and moves aside to see what it was, and it turned out to be a brand new BMW X1! The owner of the BMW told me, let us give chase to see if this older car is capable of keeping up with a near similar car, and chase we did.  The X1 owner was all up for the game and was seen doing some serious zig zag moves indicating he was willing to risk the new shiny toy, though i was a little more reluctant considering the car was not mine.

Though both had similar powered engines, the 320d with the 5-sp auto box, against the newer 8-sp autobox x1 was always going to be an advantage, but the old sedan kept up, and was keeping pace well over over the 1×0+ speeds.  Also impressive was how well the X1 with its high ride did, and the ride was made one crazy rush before we turned back.  However X1 owners be happy that X1 definitely was able to pull away even with the 320d in mode, but not by much.

Initial impression was the impressive acceleration specially into 2nd gear, where you felt the car push forward and you get thrown back a bit.  The torque clearly made its presence, and it was a joy when overtaking.  The S mode was a lot more aggressive than the D mode, but i did notice that even in S mode the programming being hesitant to drop the gear if the revs were over 2000rpm.  Only later did i learn that you had use the +/- to get the best of this car.

The gear change in the autobox was clearly a lot more smoother and quicker than my Stream RSZ, and with the +/- and S mode you would not have much reservations of not having a manual box.  The ride was surprisingly quite compliant, and handled most rutty roads with confidence with only severe potholes intruding.   The engine clutter outside was quite bad, something that surprised me since the car had just run 31,000km, but inside the insulation from noises were very impressive.

The driving position was superb, and it made you feel part of the car, and the steering weight a sheer delight, and you were reminded what you missed with electric power steering.  The beauty was that it was not too heavy at slow speeds, and was very responsive at higher speeds.

Honda Sri Lanka has (unofficial) expertise to support Hybrids cars


A friend of mine, a long time Honda owner who moved away from Nissan, decided to upgrade his car and could not digest any car other than a CVT gearbox due to the rather revvy nature that is rather addictive (the very feel that the Toyota engineers invested so much to hide as they felt the Toyota client based wanted the normal auto feel).  As a past owner of a CVT Honda Fit GD1, i can assure you that i really miss the Honda CVT revvy nature now that i am running a normal Honda auto gearbox equipped car.

He was set on the Airwave, but found that the car was discontinued in late 2008, and there was a gap before the Fit Shuttle was released in 2011.  But unlike the rather classy looking Airwave that looked so different from the GD Fit, the GE6 based Fit Shuttle has the same front end, but with the extended shell looks rather dull and boring (=ugly).   Local car dealers always smart to pick such opportunities have boosted the prices of Airwave cars that they have in their inventory since the recent updated import rules meant only cars older than 2 years from present can be imported stops any further Airwaves coming into the market.  Prices for a fully loaded Airwave (with the lovely moon roof) has sky rocketed that a Civic Hybrid is cheaper!   He then decided to go with an Honda Civic Hybrid since it too has CVT gearbox and also has luxury touch (not only in its looks, but also the Hybrid has the Alcantra seat covers even in the basic version) something which the Insight lacks.

He was fearful of the Hybrid support in Sri Lanka and had gone and spoken to the head of the technical division at Stafford, who introduced him to a new hire, an Hybrid expert (graduate!) from the States working for Stafford, and also indicated that they had sent a technician to Japan and got him versed on Honda Hybrids.

So it looks like Honda hybrids though not officially supported (that will only happen when they start selling Hybrids through the company!), has trained people at the agents.  Should be positive news for Honda Insight and Civic IMA Hybrid owners (and the lucky few who have got down the new Fit Hybrid).  Hopefully the next would the official importing of Hybrid Honda cars ………

Vehicle cost of ownership comparison tool


I created a very simple excel sheet that compares two cars on basic ownership on annual basis.  The key purpose was to allow comparison with an Hybrid 🙂 which since then expanded in applicability.

Link to the tool Basic Auto Ownership Comparer

The sheet allows comparison based on the the following,

  1. Purchase price (to work out payback in case the second car is more expensive in purchase but cheaper in running)
  2. Insurance (also allowed to indicate the insured amount, as under value is also a practice that we see commonly)
  3. Service
  4. Fuel economy, this has been broken into three groups rather than the usual two taking into account what we see here a lot in asia.  Also possible is the break the % of the driving conditions compared to the total mileage (the example has 80% City, 15% Urban and 5% highway, which is what i face)
    1. City – The worst nightmare, the bumper to bumper traffic with lots of stop and go and idle scenarios
    2. Urban – City (or driving in areas where there is still a degree of congestion) but when the traffic is low, but still with loads of stop and go scenarios, but less idle mode
    3. Long Distance / Highway – Where you can cruise at set speeds with minimal stop and go scenarios
  5. Other (to allow including ATF oil change, maybe change in batteries, timing belt vs timing chain costs, special tires, etc)
  6. Cost per liter of fuel
The comparison tool provides you a very high level capability to see the difference in fuel costs and include common annual costs (service, insurance) and then compare.  It also allows to identify the payback period of a car is say more expensive to purchase but cheaper on the annual running costs.
Would be great if blog commuters provide the following as comments to this post to help others compare vehicles.  I will post on my current vehicle and any that i have been tracking which are used by colleagues.
  • Vehicle Model
  • Model Year
  • Engine
  • City economy (kpl)
  • Urban economy (kpl)
  • Highway economy (kpl)
  • Other costs – Indicate any such as Hybrid Battery change, that were not the usual costs

Mazda Demio 2009 (DE3FS) brief review


A colleague of mine finally got the Mazda demio, and i was able to get a quick drive and some snaps to do this brief post on the car.  Hope to add the usual details once the chap gets this car into the roads after registration.  Pardon the quality of images and the state of the vehicle, it has just cleared posts, and the shots courtesy the Nokia N8 phone camera!

Unlike most other cars in the segment, the new Demio was first to reduce in weight to the previous model than the every increase in weight in cars.   Other manufacturers have shown similar changes after the Demio was released.

The Demio (based on the same platform as the Ford Fiesta) is more a Vitz sized car, small in interior space and overall dimensions compared to larger cars such as Honda Fit which are form more favorable on the accommodation front.  The car is highly rated in many UK reviews for its handling and composure.

Here are some of my initial observations based on the quick test,

EXTERIOR

Definitely looks much smaller than the other cars in the category, but has what you call a “cute” look.  The car i tested was the base model hence was missing a lot of fan fare that added to the visual effect that makes this car look quite sporty.  The curvy lines that is now common on Mazda cars is very noticeable. However without the body kit, the car design does lack a bit of flair, and I also noted many people were not fully comfortable with the curvy design theme of the Demio.

INTERIOR

This was the second Mazda Demio i had a look, but unlike the other that had a dark gloomy interior, the interior in this car had snazzy white seat design that definitely lighted up the interior.  However keeping those seats clean is going to be one challenge, and I am sure it might have seat covers coming if its going to be used as a family car (kids walking with dirty shoes, or flinging what they consume including melted chocolates are a common situation!)

The front seating is very decent, and seats quite comfortable.  The wheel has a very simple but Mazda type design.  However the smaller size definitely impacts the rear legroom, and even a person of average height (5′ 6″) would be rather too tight on legroom even with the front seat not fully pulled back.  The Demio also did not have the Vitz trick on allowing the rear seats to on rails, that allows some flexibility between rear legroom and boot space.

The boot space is decent and competitive with the likes of the Swift and the Vitz but is pales badly compared to the much larger boot in the Honda Fit.

DRIVING

Had a quick spin with the vehicle, and made sure i took it across some uneven tarmac including ruts and bumps.  Immediately noticeable is the very good damping on the car, that provided a comfortable ride, something that I always felt was bad with most Honda cars (bar the Accord i had owned a while back).  The ride was definitely more in the same feel of a Toyota than an Honda.

However the difference to a Toyota fortunately stopped there as it felt very nippy, and the wheel was very smooth and gave you a feel of utmost control.  I am sure the sporty versions of this model must be a quite an interesting car to drive 🙂 Even this car with its 1.3 liter engine seems quite rev happy, even more so that the engine in the Honda Fit GE6 and seems to have a better low down torque aided by the CVT gearbox which is not the usual gearbox in this car, but this particular model had the CVT gearbox.  However i saw the Autocar UK test for the two cars, and the Honda Fit was definitely the faster of the two on the 0-100 tests.

ECONOMY

Sadly no time to test this, so will have to wait for the long term test .


Honda Civic no longer to be made in the Japanese market!


The classy and sporty option for the Corolla, Sunny users has always been the Civic.  Aided by the uber cool Type-R and the somewhat simmered down but yet sporty SiR the Civic has always captured the hearts of motorist.  The local motorist here also got access to the JDM only RS version which was a standard Civic with a bit more sporty suspension and external kit which though disappeared after the 7th generation Civic. The current (8th) generation Civic had such a futuristic design that it had Toyota delaying the launch of the Corolla to do some design tweaks, though that hardly made a difference as the Civic was a class on its own on the visual impact.

However it seems that in its homeland the Civic has been loosing out, not to competitors but to its own siblings, and based on the reports the nearly similar sized Honda Fit, and the Civic based Stream being the major causes.

However the Civic model will live on, as it still is a very popular car in other markets, and the new (9th) generation will be produced in the new Honda plant in Argentina.  The question remains though is what will happen to the highly acclaimed Type-R sedan.  While the European arm of Honda will surely develop a new Type-R hatch, the Japanese division were always one step ahead with an even more sharper and sporty sedan version.   Hopefully Honda will retain a team to make this car and keep the sporty Civic sedan image alive.

The links on this are many – one for instance http://www.dailytech.com/Report+Honda+Civic+Getting+Kicked+Out+of+Japan/article20165.htm

The small story of the two R’s, the Honda Civic Mugen RR vs the Honda Stream RSZ


Just had to add this to blog !

After years of some spirited driving, i have had to sizzle down my rather aggressive and speed/thrill crazy driving style with marriage and now father-hood!  While the regular drives are still very much greater than the normal folks, I usually control my desire to take on that occasional spirited fellow drivers with my aging maturity 🙂

However last evening i had this KL- registered Red Civic, with the RR badging which came alongside (I had it place as Type-R, but today my expert friend on local sport car imports confirmed that it was the Mugen RR – http://www.autoblog.com/2007/06/28/official-japan-gets-honda-civic-mugen-rr/, the ultimate front wheel drive sport car).  Seems the owner of the car was keen to find out what my Stream RSZ was all about.  Anyways this got me triggered and off we went on rather congested roads, the RR on the left and me on the right (or wrong, if you consider driving on the opposite side wrong) down bauddhaloka mawatha.  I got the advantage of having the opportunity to weave through the traffic more easily than the RR, and kept clear two color lights thanks traffic and some “casual” overtaking.

However the RR driver whoever it was, was a spirited chap and decide to follow the RSZ and show the true power of the RR.   Turned into Stanley Wijesundra Mw, and though i had switched to sports mode and 1st gear, the RSZ was shown the power of the RR as it just burst past, and kept moving.  The RR driver was still game as he definitely must have taken the foot of the accelerator as i started to close the gap at the end of the road as he turned into Reid avenue.  I decided that i needed one more view of the RR and took the turn at full throttle, and went through traffic (again in a very “Casual” manner) catching the RR driver a bit off guard as he then floored to catch up.  Somehow the RSZ remained ahead at the end of the road, as we turned into Thurstan road.

However this time around the RR driver had decided that enough was enough, and must have worked out that the RSZ was not in the same power league, and was also an automatic 🙂   Once into Thurstan road, not just 20m in the RR just burst through and showed me a clean pair of heels, and with my destination being Thurstan Road, i gracefully turned to the lane with my brakes and mechanicals having more than a dose of burning rubber aroma!

Two positives from that, one that the RSZ seems to catch the eye of even sporty drivers such as the RR, and that I was able to see the RR in its full glory, and had me wishing for an immediate change to a manual gearbox sporty sedan once more….

Message to myself – wake up, get back to the mature mode 🙂 To the RR driver good to see that RR (and a Honda) being driven the way it should be 🙂 and to see that buyers in Sri Lanka have taste and bring interesting vehicles, not just Allions, bulky SUVs and luxury sedans.

CVT gearboxes, how are they different from normal automatic gearboxes


With CVT gearboxes becoming a common feature on most cars that are being imported into Sri Lanka, specially after Toyota Japan has made it standard for all the common models (Axio, Allion, Premio, RAV4, etc).  However a lot seem unclear what is different from the CVT, specially since Toyota went to great lengths making many changes to the implementation of the CVT in Toyota’s to make it look and feel like a normal auto, hiding some of the characteristics that easily enabled a driver to know if the car had a CVT or not.

This tweaking has made many feel that CVT gearboxes are just like auto boxes, when in reality they are engineered very differently. A simple and quick guide that i would like to point out to people is http://cars.about.com/od/thingsyouneedtoknow/a/CVT.htm.  Hits the key points straight on such as the characteristics of a true CVT gearbox, and how manufacturers tweak it to hide the characteristics since most automatic users feel not comfortable with the normal jerky revy nature of the CVT gear ratio changes.

Important to note in CVT’s are,

1. There is no physical gear ratios, which in some ways makes it feel like a manual

2. The tiptronic buttons that say 5-speed, 7-speed simply are programing (software) implementation of ratios that gets applied as you change them, unlike in a true auto where it shifts into a different gear ratio

3. Though ATF oil was used in the past, issues faced by Honda with their CVT gearboxes and by Nissan in recent times have made auto makers develop a different gearbox / transmission fluid for CVT implementation.  However the gearbox itself has gone through changes, such as torque converters which were not used in early CVT gearboxes to reduce the loss in efficiency (some say 10%) were reintroduced, and the findings that the CVT gearboxes generated more heat has seen coolers being installed to maintain temperatures.  Hence the continued need for a higher cost CVT fluid maybe more marketing than fact, but with gearbox prices being high nobody wants to skimp to prove this 🙂

4. Implementations of the CVT gearboxes differ from manufacturer to manufacture, both in the physical as well as software.  Honda implementations seem to favor retaining the revvy nature of the CVT, as Honda owners feel they are driving something sporty.  However Toyota findings that their buyers preferred the automatics more smoother controlled changes has seen Toyota invest greatly to make the CVT gearbox mimic an auto.  Nissan one of the pioneer CVT implementers and a company that actually started using it in larger cars has never got much of the spotlight though they have many different variations of CVT.

However with the emergence of the dual clutch automatic gearboxes, which has shown that cars equipped with it could shift faster than a manual gearbox has made the CVT the second best auto implementation compared to the manual.  Dual clutch implementations are featured in many European cars, with VW group even having it on their cheap small cars such as the Polo. Sadly not seen much on this from the usual Japanese cars and companies.

Hybrids the good and the bad


A good site that hybrid buyers might want to checkout is http://www.greenhybrid.com as these provide rich discussions on most of the popular hybrids, and you can find some interesting issues.

While real life fuel efficiencies are definitely great in city driving conditions, the gains on open roads are less evident.  A common finding in UK is that the latest Turbo diesels return better or equal fuel efficiencies with less complexities than hybrids, however local taxes on diesels means we can’t import these great turbo diesels at low prices.

Some quick findings on hybrid batteries

  • Agent support seems very important, as unlike normal cars, these cars seem to need software upgrades, as this impact the battery usage efficiencies and the vehicle functionality as a hybrid
  • The battery depletion rate is impacted by the weather conditions, usage patterns.  Hotter weather conditions, regular idling seems to have impact on the battery life and efficiencies.
  • Battery efficiencies and lifetime is impacted by the batch and manufacture year.

More to come…

Hybrid cars in the Japanese market 2010


Hybrids are fast becoming popular solution, and the most awaited talked about in this market is the GM products that have taken so many years to get into production state. The first platform being the Chevrolet Volt, with Vauxhall have a re-badged version Ampera.  The key difference is unlike most hybrids where the electric motor is the secondary power source, the Volt/Ampera run purely on the electric motor, and the petrol engine does not power the car, but charges the battery.  Hence the car is actually marketed as an Electric car as opposed to an Hybrid. (Checkout – http://www.gm.com/vehicles/hybrids-and-electric/electric/)

However this car is planned for release in 2011, and possibly we might also see similar implementations from other vendors but considering the challenges GM faced in getting this implemented, its not going to happen soon.

So back to earth, what are the options that we have in the Japanese market since the Sri Lankan industry is driven by used cars coming out from that market.  The other new option that is starting to get popular is the new generation products from Hyundai/Kia.

MODEL TYPE PRODUCTION YEAR JAPAN CHASSIS CODE PETROL CC NOTES
TOYOTA HARRIER HYBRID SUV 2005 – current DAA-MHU38 (4WD) 

DAA-MHU33 (FF)

 

3310 Sold in the US as the RX400H
Toyota SAI Sedan 2009 – current DAA-AZK10 2362 LEXUS HS250 with Toyota badging
Toyota PRIUS 3rd generation Hatchback 2009 – current DAA-ZVW30 1797
Toyota PRIUS 2nd generation Hatchback 2003 – 2009 / current DAA-NHW20 1496 Seems the production of this continues parallel to the newer model
TOYOTA ALPHARD HYBRID 4WD Minivan 2003 – 2008 DAA-ATH10W 2362
HONDA INSIGHT 2nd generation Hatchback 2009 – current DAA-ZE2 1,339
Honda CRZ 3dr Hatchback 2010 – current DAA-ZF1 1,496
HONDA CIVIC HYBRID Sedan 2005 – current DAA-FD3 1339
Honda FIT HYBRID Hatchback 2010 – current DAA-GP1 1339 Honda GE6 hybrid version